School board tackles energy costs

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The board of education has decided to take a two-pronged approach to reducing energy costs in the County's schools.

Board member Randy Perryman's maintenance committee recommended that the Board go forward with a contract with the Siemens Company for an "Energy Savings Performance Contracting Program." The board unanimously agreed with Perryman's recommendation, and asked attorney Chuck Cagle to help draw up the contract.

The committee also decided to recommend hiring Capital Project Solutions to apply for grants that could be used to install geothermal heating and cooling in one or more of the schools.

A work session immediately preceded the Nov. 17 school board meeting, and during this session Perryman - along with board members Craig Michael, Curt Denton and Dee Dee Owens, and interim director Roy Dukes - heard once again from Randall Dunn of Capital Project Solutions.

The group was worried about the time frame and the cost involved, but Dunn allayed their fears on both counts.

"2009 is behind us as far as funding goes," Dunn explained. He said that in 2010, it appeared the next round of funding would put more emphasis on education. If the board wished, CPS could be watching on a daily basis for notice of funding, and start writing a grant within 48 hours.

Dunn explained that formerly grants had a due date, and all applications were considered at the same time. Now, he said, decisions were made as the grants came in, so it was best to have "a good viable grant that gets in early."

Grants are about 20 percent demographic information, and 80 percent details of the project: budget, schedule, and management plan.

"This is where we come in," said Dunn, an expert who is both a Certified Professional Public Buyer and Certified Public Procurement Officer. He has over 28 years experience in procurement on locally, state and federally funded projects. Dunn has taught procurement on a national basis since 1993 and has received numerous awards for his contributions to the field of public procurement.

"The school board is not committed to pay us a dime," Dunn said. At this point, CPS just wanted a signed agreement that if a grant comes out, the board would engage them to apply for it. CPS would tell the board if a grant was available, and how much an application would cost, and the board could agree to proceed - or not. Then, if the grant were awarded, CPS would state their fee for running the project, and the board could accept it - or not.

"So we could back out at no cost?" asked Perryman.

"Yes," answered Dunn.

"This will be a document for our lawyer to review?" enquired Michael.

"I'd be disappointed if you don't do that," Dunn answered.

"Is geothermal all you deal with?" asked Denton.

"No, not at all," replied Dunn. "We can look at other funding for expansion, construction, upgrading; we'd be glad to help with that process."

"You know what it costs before you write the grant?" Denton asked.

"Absolutely," answered Dunn. "We've never had a project come in over budget or past due date."

The committee unanimously agreed to recommend to the full board that they move forward with CPS.

During the school board meeting, a motion to approve a letter of intent to Siemens was unanimously agreed, even though the Siemens representative they have been dealing with, Kirk Whittington, was unable to attend due to illness in his family.

It is estimated that Siemens' Energy Savings Performance Contracting Program will save the district $350,000 per year, using a variety of measures to save water and electricity. "This program will be self-funding and will not require additional capital money or taxpayer dollars to implement," states the letter.

The fee, if the school system decides not to implement the program when Siemens provides it, will be $12,000.

Board members asked Cagle if he had seen programs similar to the Siemens one succeed in other districts.

"I've seen mixed results," he replied. "Mostly favorable; some were a train wreck. "Everybody goes in with the intent to do a good job," he added.